It’s that time of year again: Separated and divorced parents everywhere need to start negotiating the holiday custody schedule for the kids.
Whether you’ve recently separated from your co-parent, or you’ve been divorced for some time, the holiday season can be filled with conflicts over custody. Planning ahead is essential to make sure that the holidays remain merry and bright for everyone (especially your kids). By communicating with your co-parent (and your children) early, you can avoid a lot of unpleasantness.
Where do you start? Here are some tips:
Review your court orders
You probably have a custody or parenting plan in place that describes how your holiday time will be divided. Make sure that you understand what it says to manage your expectations and negotiate from a position of strength.
Open a line of communication with your co-parent
The operating rule is “know what your custody papers say but remain flexible” as you negotiate with your co-parent. The holiday schedules can get very complicated due to special events, visits from relatives and religious observances. Be willing to barter a little with your ex so that you can get favors in return.
Talk about travel plans
Transportation issues can put a big kink in your holiday plans. Talk to your co-parent about any special issues that should be addressed, particularly if there’s any need to transport the kids a long distance. Discuss “backup plans” in case there’s foul weather or an emergency.
Consider sharing a few events
There’s only one chance to see your six-year-old go trick-or-treating for the first time, so think about teaming up with your co-parent to experience the joys of the season together (if you can both be cordial).
The holidays are always a bit hard on divorced parents, but cooperation can make everything much easier. It can also keep you out of court over custody disputes.